St Austell 4 - Bridgwater Town 5 (AET)
Saturday 23rd September 2017
A couple of years after the Second World War, the home ground of St Austell, Poltair Park, staged the final of the Cornwall Senior Cup between St Austell themselves and Penzance writes Kerry Miller.
The attendance figure has been passed down during the last 70 years and now stands at 13,000, presumably four deep on shoulders and another 10,000 stacked up on the streets outside the ground.
Looking at the ground today, with a shallow grass bank around three sides and the imposing and sturdy concrete grandstand along one side, it is impossible to see how 13,000 people could have fitted anywhere within several hundred yard radius of that famous old Cornish venue.
On Saturday a more modest 267, including a sprinkling of Bridgwater Town’s loyal following, watched a true classic and one which has to be up there with the best games of the season.
In the end after two hours of flat out football, the Robins triumphed with an extra-time goal from Callum Ham which sees his side in the hat for the First Round proper in a month’s time.
It proved to be the third and final time Bridgy had taken the lead but with both defences under constant pressure goals were inevitable, and so it proved as the press corps were in need of an abacus by the end.
With the potential of a serious financial loss should any replay not go to plan, Bridgy opted to forgo the chance of a replay and so the game was to be played to a finish with the option of penalties as a final resort.
Jake Llewellyn and Mike Duffy were out suspended while Steve Holland, Kyle Paine, Sam Hallett and George Sinnott were injured and Ryan Burrows working but player-manager Dave Pearse led the line himself as well as coping with an early problem as Shaun Lambert limped off after less than five minutes with Lee Begg replacing him.
It mattered little as a minute later Ham curled a peach of a free-kick into the corner with home keeper Jason Chapman waving it goodbye from the other side of the goal, to take an early lead.
The Lillywhites stormed back and Dan Richardson was over with a drive before Martin Watts’ curling free-kick was spectacularly punched away by the flying Jake Viney. Watts is a former Argyle man whose Football League career was cut short by injury but he has found a niche at Poltair, whose programme notes described him as having ‘a wand of a left foot’, which appears accurate as he netted 16 times last season from his left back spot.
At the back for Bridgy, Josh White was everywhere as he had to be to cut out the real threat of Liam Eddy, who has close to 200 goals in the SW Peninsula League. He should have been a goal closer to the magic number midway through the half when Jack Calver escaped and wriggled along the goal line before cutting the ball back but Eddy’s effort was deflected over.
It was becoming a festival of set pieces as from the corner Watts’ delivery was too much for the away defence and midfielder Jordan Pearce volleyed it in from ten yards, two ex-Argyle men combining.
Pearce and Dan Lean were then booked for fouls and from one free-kick Bridgy’s Pearse headed an effort just wide but Matt Connick went closer soon after as his pace took him clear and one on one but as the trigger went back, Will Tinsley somehow got back with a goal saving tackle.
As the half closed out Bridgy put two superb moves together involving Syd Camper, Mark Armstrong, Ham and Pearse which came to nothing while Watts was still using his wand as another free-kick was held by Viney.
Bridgy were given a leg up within two minutes of the restart as Watts limped off to be replaced by George Roberts and with the defence still settling in they took the lead with the third goal of the day from a set piece. A corner came in and from a melee Pearse stabbed the ball forward and it appeared to dribble out to Matt Connick who gave his side the lead once again.
St Austell responded well and from a free-kick by Kieron Bishop, Tinsley timed his run perfectly to nod home of the hour to make it 2-2, known in some football circles as ‘a Desmond’. It wasn’t a Desmond for too long as the home side took the momentum and substitute Chris Reski set Eddy away and his finishing touch was there for them to take the lead with the first goal from open play.
The set piece goal tally was soon rising again as Bridgwater equalised when Pearse was fouled near the penalty area and Camper made it look easy with another inch-perfect free-kick to make it 3-3.
Still the action continued and on 71 minutes Bridgy took the lead once more when Pearse fed Camper who was wide out and his left foot drive flew in off a defender to make it 4-3 but home sub Rob Wearne was introduced and his impact was immediate as Kirk Davies flicked the ball on and Wearne home to make it 4-4, or a ‘Double Desmond’ – a rarity in itself.
Both sides went for the winner but Eddy went closest when he again beat the offside line but his drive was beaten away by the busy and excellent Viney to bring extra-time.
With defences tiring under the barrage, a winner was not far away and after Callum Ham and Eddy had both gone close, Ham again was given enough room to pick his spot to drive home what proved to be the winner.
St Austell’s Pearce almost rescued the tie at the death but Viney kept him out and after two hours the drive back up to Somerset was a sweet one.
The Robins pocket a modest £750 for the win and have the best part of a month to prepare for the next round. Meanwhile their next two league fixtures will test them to the max as they travel to undefeated Bradford Town on Saturday before going to league leaders Buckland Athletic seven days later.